Fewer illegal immigrants arrested in Hong Kong after joint crackdown on people smugglers with mainland police
A total of 837 illegal immigrants, from South and Southeast Asia, were arrested by the city’s police this year, down 75 per cent from 2015
Hong Kong and mainland law enforcement agencies have claimed initial victory over the problem of cross-border human smuggling, with figures they released on Thursday showing a 75 per cent drop in non-Chinese illegal immigrants arrested this year compared to two years ago.
A total of 837 non-Chinese illegal immigrants were arrested by Hong Kong police between January and November this year, down 60 per cent from last year.
In 2015, Hong Kong police arrested over 300 such immigrants each month on average. They were mostly South Asians looking for work, with others seeking asylum on grounds of torture back home, though the government had previously said some were abusing the system with bogus claims.
Hong Kong people smuggling syndicates smashed: nearly 3,000 illegal immigrants arrested in joint operation with mainland police
The influx of these immigrants into the city and the mainland prompted mainland border control and the city’s public security officers to roll out a joint operation covering Guangdong, Guangxi, and Yunnan provinces about two years ago.
Hong Kong security minister John Lee Ka-chiu, who attended a meeting in Shenzhen between agencies from both sides, said the reduction in numbers was a “good trend”, which he attributed to the 21-month joint operation.
But he highlighted an issue that the city’s security officials were closely watching: signs that a growing number of non-Chinese illegal immigrants were involved in more serious crimes. More of them have been arrested for offences such as triad involvement or violence.
At a press briefing after the meeting, Yin Chengjun, director of the Border Control Department of the National Ministry of Public Security, said mainland officers from the three provinces had arrested a total of 67,600 people for cross-border human-smuggling activities in the past 21 months. About five per cent, or 3,400, were involved in 293 cases where people intended to enter Hong Kong from the mainland.
The vast majority of those arrested on the mainland were from Vietnam, with others coming from South Asian countries like Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan.
Mainland police added that they had cracked down on more than 50 syndicates.
Yin said the smuggling rackets were “well-organised”, providing a “one-stop service” for human-smuggling. The snakeheads in Hong Kong were responsible for planning and giving instructions, while those in South and Southeast Asia would gather the illegal immigrants and send them on their way according to the logistics plan and transport arranged by the mainland snakeheads.
Working together allowed both sides to share intelligence and target snakeheads, or smuggling gangs.
“Human smuggling activities are still very prevalent,” Yin said.
Lee added both sides had agreed to extend their joint operation until July 2019.
“We both agreed to continue cracking down on snakeheads, and continue exchanging intelligence and to step up exchange of information on the [tactics] the snakeheads adopt to smuggle people,” he said.